Friday, January 21

Captain Tom: ‘I’ve always believed that things will get better. The sun will shine again ‘| NHS

“II’m absolutely intimidated, ”says Captain Tom Moore. “Never in 100 years did I anticipate that this would happen to me, that my name would go around the world.” When, at 99, he set out to walk 100 laps in his garden before his 100th birthday, the intention was to raise money – his £ 1,000 goal – for the NHS in their fight against the coronavirus. His daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore, imagined that her father’s effort could reach her local newspaper, the Bedfordshire Times and citizen. Little did not foresee that she was about to become a worldwide sensation. In three and a half weeks, Captain Tom had raised a staggering £ 38.9 million, with 163 countries participating around the world. And once he was 100 years old, a wave of honorary titles followed: colonel, doctor of science, member of the English cricket team. Since then, it has been on the fast track to greater fame and has almost become an industry unto itself. He accompanied showbiz baritone Michael Ball in his rendition of You will never walk alone and became the first centennial to reach the top of the charts. He has published an autobiography, Tomorrow will be a good dayand a picture book for children, One hundred steps. In July, he was knighted by the Queen.

On the birthday itself he received 225,000 birthday cards (yet to come) and a barrage of gifts: drink, tea, homemade offerings and even furniture, including a chair (someone evidently thought he deserved a break). And I’m glad to meet this sweet man, on Zoom, sitting comfortably with Hannah by his side (although I am alarmed to learn that he has conducted 800 interviews since April 9). What is it about Captain Tom that has moved so many hearts, moved fans to tears, and emptied wallets around the world? Hannah, whose experience is not insignificant in international sales distribution, attributes it to his attractiveness as a multi-generational family man and “inspiring veteran.”

When I ask him if he was ever tempted to stop walking, he replies: “No, no, never ever; the hardest part is the first step; once you’ve done that, if you do another one, it becomes second nature. “But must he have gotten tired?” Absolutely, but you won’t give up. I’m from Yorkshire. We won’t give up. ” There is no need to ask whether for Captain Tom, born in Keighley in the West Riding, being willing to take a first step amounts to a philosophy. Their appeal is to make us feel, however hesitant, that there is a first step that we could all take toward a brighter horizon.

Tom Moore with his motorcycle racing trophies.
Tom Moore with his motorcycle racing trophies. Photograph: Maytrix Group / Reuters

It would be easy to assume that Captain Tom’s optimism was nothing more than a measure of his good luck, but his autobiography reveals that he has had to endure the hard with the soft throughout his long life. We learn of a first wife with mental health difficulties and a second who succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease at age 65, prey to painful delusions. When she was permanently admitted to an institution, Captain Tom felt it was “a tragedy” not to be able to take care of her himself. He visited her every day and helped the nursing team by feeding her (she relates that throughout her life, mentioning skin cancer and hip fracture, she has had “the greatest support” from the NHS). Friends asked him why he felt the need to visit his wife with such devotion. This outraged him: “I signed a contract when I married Pamela. I promised to take care of her in case of illness and health and I am a man of my word. “Your new charity, The Captain Tom Foundation, created in his memory, is to help those who have no one else to help them. The aim of the foundation is to combat loneliness. Today, he urges me to go out and give a “little smile” when I pass other people on the street (an interesting project in London).

Captain Tom fought in the brutal Burma campaign during World War II and explains: “In the military, you change from individual to unit and join the fight for the same cause. The camaraderie in the forces helps everything to go well ”. After the war, he became the managing director of a concrete company. But his passion was motorcycle racing. As soon as I mention motorcycles, the conversation accelerates: “The new motorcycles are now completely different animals,” he confesses. “I would love to be on one of the new bikes with all the jumps.” And you can’t resist adding that fluffy upholstery is for “softies.”

The Queen Knight Captain Tom Moore, Windsor, July
The Queen, ‘such a magnificent person’, Gentlemen Captain Tom Moore, Windsor, July. Photograph: Reuters

Captain Tom is not a softie, that’s for sure. Nor is he afraid of the virus: “I am not a worrying person,” he says. He feels sad for those who are. “I have always believed that things will get better. The sun will shine again, the birds will sing and we will all have a beautiful day tomorrow. “Hannah believes that what her father has started is a” family legacy, a mission to inspire hope where it is needed most around the world. “She says : “Loneliness is imprinted on our souls. We understand its negative effects. And we understand grief. My father lost his wife and I lost my mother at a time when I had just had my first baby and needed her the most.” And then he tells me about the foundation’s latest hit: the London marathon is to support #Walk With Tom. His father is determined that we all walk and has already inspired several fundraising walks (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery).

For Captain Tom himself, today there is no competition for what has excited him the most. “When you get to the end, only one person stands out more than anyone else: the Queen. Being knighted and being so close to her is such a magnificent person. That was the greatest joy and something I will never forget ”. And what did the Queen tell you? He pauses, looking as pleased as a punch, and then responds, “I’m not going to tell you that.”

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